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A leading additive manufacturing facility has recently joined the North West Aerospace Alliance to provide access to equipment and advice on incorporating 3D printing into aerospace businesses. The facility, which is run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, is specifically designed to support businesses to utilise and adopt 3D printing technologies.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a process by which components are built in layers based on digital designs. The Aerospace Technology Institute has predicted that 15% of the additive manufacturing market will be linked to the aerospace sector by 2025. STFC’s additive manufacturing facility is now working with companies to explore how 3D printing could aid product development and streamline manufacturing processes across the aerospace industry.

Additive manufacturing boasts a broad range of opportunities and benefits over ‘traditional’ manufacturing techniques, including:

-          Weight reduction

-          Reduction in number of components

-          Production of bespoke or small batch products, jigs, tools or fixtures

-          Ability to create parts with complex geometries

A range of companies have worked with the additive manufacturing facility on projects ranging from rapid prototyping, development of bespoke jigs, tools and fixtures and optimising designs for the 3D printing workflow.

UK start-up Taylor Garfit Ltd has developed emergency humanitarian shelters that are more lightweight, robust, durable and easier to build than current models, thanks to expertise and equipment at the facility. The company worked with the STFC team over a period of 6 months to advance the framing technology from concept to field trial prototype, developing 16 variant prototypes and increasing strength by 20% at each test stage.

Richard Taylor, CEO Taylor Garfit Ltd, commented: “This is a timescale we certainly could not have achieved without the assistance of STFC in facilitating a full program of rapid prototyping and testing.”

Experts in pharmacy automation technologies, Medication Management Robotics have also used additive manufacturing to overcome some critical engineering challenges under strict time constraints. The STFC team has been able to provide bespoke solutions for a range of technical issues in medicine dispensing robots through the production of bespoke parts, saving the company considerable time and money and enabling it to deliver a high quality product to its customer on time.

David Bogg, Manager at STFC’s additive manufacturing facility, explained: “The aim of the facility is to provide companies of all sizes with affordable access to the best skills and equipment in engineering R&D, so that they can solve their technology challenges for innovations that will benefit both society and our economy. By learning more about the opportunities that 3D printing, Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality can present for engineering, the benefits for businesses are potentially vast.”

To find out more about STFC’s additive manufacturing facility visit https://stfc.ukri.org/innovation/campuses/business-incubation/campus-technology-hub/ or contact Delyth Edwards: delyth.edwards@stfc.ac.uk

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